The Origin and Early Evolution of Animals
Image: Swartpuntia germsi, fossil and a
reconstruction of the youngest Ediacaran fossils from a recent find
The Ediacara biota (575 - 543 million years old) is a Late
Precambrian assemblage of soft-bodied organisms that represent the
oldest animals in Earth history. Some species show familar patterns
and appear to represent the rootstock from which modern metazoans
evolved, others are difficult to classify with any living animal
groups and may represent a "failed experiment" in the evolution of
life. Ediacaran communities were the first animal ecosystems on
Earth, and studies of their interactions with their environment and
each other can shed light on the origin of ecosystems. To see images
of these fossils these fossils, please visit our on-line exhibits The
Mistaken Point assemblage and The Oldest
Our studies in NW Canada, southern Africa, and Newfoundland
over the past two decades resulted in numerous publications and
several graduate theses. Recent investigations have increasingly
focused on the Mistaken Point biota of eastern Newfoundland (575-560
Ma), which represents the oldest Ediacaran fossils known anywhere,
in fact the oldest large and architecturally complex organisms in
Earth history. These Ediacaran fossils are preserved on more than
100 large bedding surfaces spanning nearly 4 km of section, each
surface littered with tens to thousands of fossil specimens that
died in place when they were smothered beneath beds of volcanic ash.
This provides a superb natural laboratory for our studies of the
affinities, evolution, and ecology of early animals and their
ecosystems. Five M.Sc. theses, a Ph.D. thesis, and two post-doctoral
fellowships have been completed on the paleobiology and life
environments of these critical fossils, and other research projects
GRADUATE PROJECTS AND RESEARCH
THE ORIGIN AND EARLY EVOLUTION OF
wardi is the oldest complex animal fossil yet
discovered. See the paper "Life after Snowball: The
oldest complex Ediacaran fossils" in the reference list
Graduate Theses and Post-doctoral Fellowships:
Lija Flude, M.Sc. thesis in progress, Ediacaran rangeomorphs in the
Mistaken Point biota, Newfoundland.
Emily Bamforth, 2007, M.Sc. Ediacaran multibranched rangeomorphs in
the Mistaken Point biota, Newfoundland. Currently in the Ph.D.
program in evolutionary biology at McGill University.
Marc Laflamme, 2006, Ph.D. Paleobiology of Ediacaran fronds at
Mistaken Point, Newfoundland. Currently NSERC Postdoctoral Fellow at
Virginia Polytechnical Institute/Yale University
Aitor Ichado, 2005, M.Sc. Neoproterozoic sedimentology and basin
analysis of Conception Bay North, Newfoundland (co-supervised by R.W.
Dalrymple). Currently in the Ph.D. program in sedimentology at Queen's
Dr. Leanne Pyle, 2002-2004, Postdoctoral Fellow, Ediacaran facies
and fossils, Wernecke Mountains, Yukon Territory. (co-supervised by
N.P. James). Currently a project geologist with the Geological Survey of
Canada in Vancouver, B.C.
Matthew Clapham, 2002, M.Sc., Community ecology of the Ediacaran
biota at Mistaken Point, Newfoundland. Currently Assistant Professor
at University of California, Santa Cruz.
Donald Wood, 2002, M.Sc.,
Neoproterozoic sedimentology and paleontology, eastern Newfoundland
(co-supervised by R.W. Dalrymple). Currently a geologist at Acclaim Energy
Robert MacNaughton, 1997, Ph.D., Sedimentology and trace fossils
across the Precambrian- Cambrian boundary, NW Canada (co-supervised by
R.W. Dalrymple). Currently Research Scientist at the Geological Survey of
Dr. Jim Gehling, 1998-2000, William E. White Visiting Fellow.
Paleobiology of the Mistaken Point assemblage. Currently Research
Scientist at the South Australia Museum, Adelaide and Adjunct Professor at
Queen's University, Kingston.
Fedonkin, M.A., Gehling, J.G., Grey, K., Narbonne, G.M., and
Vickers-Rich, P., 2007, The Rise of Animals: Evolution and
Diversification of Kingdom Animalia. John Hopkins Press, 344 p.
[Shortlisted for the Premier’s Literary Award in Science
Refereed Journal Publications:
Flude, L.I. and Narbonne, G.M. Taphonomy and ontogeny of a
multibranched Ediacaran fossil: Bradgatia from the Avalon
Peninsula of Newfoundland. Canadian Journal of Earth Sciences
45 (10), in press.
Laflamme, M. and Narbonne, G.M.,
2008, Competition in a Precambrian world: Palaeoecology and
functional biology of Ediacaran fronds. Geology Today, 24
Canfield, D.E., Poulton, S.W., Knoll, A.H.,
Narbonne, G.M., Ross, G.M., Goldberg, T., and Strauss, H., 2008.
Ferruginous conditions dominated later Neoproterozoic deep-water
chemistry. Science 321: 949-952 (also published online 07
July 2008 [DOI: 10.1126/science.1154499] in Science Express
Reports). [Selected for a “Perspective” in
Bamforth, E.L., Narbonne, G.M.
and Anderson, M.M. 2008, Growth and ecology of a multi-branched
Ediacaran rangeomorph from the Mistaken Point assemblage,
Newfoundland. Journal of Paleontology 82: 763–777.
Laflamme, M., and Narbonne, G.M., 2008, Ediacaran fronds.
Palaeogeography, Palaeoclimatology, Palaeoecology, 258 (3):
162-179. [Featured in Geology Today]
Gehling, J.G. and Narbonne, G.M. 2007, Spindle-shaped
Ediacara fossils from the Mistaken Point assemblage, Avalon Zone,
Newfoundland. Canadian Journal of Earth Sciences 44:
SEQ CHAPTER \h \r 1Ichaso, A.,
Dalrymple, R.W., and Narbonne, G.M., 2007, Paleoenvironmental and
basin analysis of the late Neoproterozoic (Ediacaran) upper
Conception and St. John’s Groups, west Conception Bay, Newfoundland,
Canada, Canadian Journal of Earth Sciences 44: 25-41.
Canfield, D.E., Poulton, S.W., and Narbonne, G.M., 2007,
Late Neoproterozoic deep ocean oxygenation and the rise of animal
life. Science 315: 92-95 (also published online 07 December
2006 [DOI: 10.1126/science.1135013] in Science Express
Reports). [Featured in the “News of the Week” by
Science, Nature, and New Scientist]
Pyle, L.J., Narbonne, G.M., Nowlan, G.S., Xiao, S, and
James, N.P., 2006, Early Cambrian metazoan eggs, embryos, and
phosphatic microfossils from northwestern Canada. Journal of
Paleontology 80: 811-825.
A.H., Walter, M.R., Narbonne, G.M., and Christie-Blick, N., 2006,
The Ediacaran Period: A new addition to the geologic time
scale. Lethaia 39:13-30. (PDF)
G.M. 2005, The Ediacara biota: Neoproterozoic origin of animals
and their ecosystems. Annual Reviews of Earth and Planetary
Sciences 33: 13.1-13.22. (PDF)
G.M. 2004, Modular construction of complex early Ediacaran life
forms. Science 305: 1141-1144. (PDF)
Selected as Cover photograph: --CLICK
Selected as one of the top 100 science
discoveries (#46) for 2004 by Discover Magazine.
A.H., Walter, M.R., Narbonne, G.M., and Christie-Blick, N. 2004,
A new period for the geologic time scale. Science 305:
Selected as one of the top 100 science
discoveries (#42) for 2004 by Discover Magazine.
M., Narbonne, G.M. and Anderson, M.M., 2004, Morphometrics of the
Ediacaran frond Charniodiscus from the Mistaken Point Formation,
Newfoundland. Journal of Paleontology 78: 827-837.
M.E., Narbonne,G.M., Gehling, J.G., Greentree, C, and Anderson, M.M.
2004, Thectardis avalonensis: A new Ediacaran fossil from
Mistaken Point, Newfoundland. Journal of Paleontology,
78: 1031-1036. (PDF)
L.J., Narbonne, G.M., James, N.P., Dalrymple, R.W., and Kaufman,
A.J., 2004, Integrated Ediacaran chronostratigraphy, Wernecke
Mountains, northwestern Canada. Precambrian Research 132:
G.M. and Gehling, J.G., 2003, Life after Snowball: the oldest
complex Ediacaran fossils. Geology 31: 27-30.
For images of these fossils --CLICK
M.E., Narbonne,G.M., and Gehling, J.G., 2003, Paleoecology of the
oldest- known animal communities: Ediacaran assemblages at Mistaken
Point, Newfoundland. Paleobiology 29: 527-544.
D. A., Dalrymple, R.W., Narbonne, G.M., Gehling, J.G., and Clapham.
M.E., 2003, Environmental analysis of the late Neoproterozoic
Mistaken Point and Trepassey Formations, southeastern Newfoundland:
paleobiological and tectonic implication. Canadian Journal
of Earth Sciences 40: 1375-1391. (PDF)
M.E. and Narbonne, G.M., 2002, Ediacaran epifaunal tiering,
Geology 30: 527-544. (PDF)
MacNaughton, R.B., Narbonne, G.M., and Dalrymple, R.W., 2000,
Neoproterozoic slope deposits, Mackenzie Mountains, NW Canada:
Implications for passive-margin development and Ediacaran faunal
ecology. Canadian Journal of Earth Sciences, 37:
Gehling, J.G., Narbonne, G.M. and Anderson, M.A., 2000, The
first named Ediacaran body fossil, Aspidella
terranovica,. Palaeontology , 43: 427-456.
Please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
to discuss potential thesis topics.
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